As Virginia continues to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Ralph Northam reminded people in the Commonwealth that another health crisis they are facing is far from over. A significant increase in drug overdose cases since the beginning of the year is cause for concern. The number of emergency overdose calls that dispatchers in Virginia have responded to this year has already exceeded the total number of similar calls in 2019, Northam said this month.
During a press briefing, Northam said it was a “difficult time for all of us” but “people who are in recovery from substance use disorder face particular challenges.”
“We have heard from localities from around the Commonwealth they are seeing an increase in the number of drug overdoses in our communities,” the governor said according to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.
“In Roanoke County, dispatchers have responded to twice as many fatal overdoses in the first five months of this year than they did in all of 2019,” the governor said according to WJLA. "The Northern Shenandoah Region has also seen a substantial increase in overdoses, both fatal and non-fatal, compared to the same time last year.”
“As a physician, these reports are very, very concerning to me,” Northam said, warning that no one should lose sight of the ongoing addiction crisis during the coronavirus pandemic. “We can’t be neglecting those issues. Anyone who needs treatment or emergency care should seek it.”
The trend is troubling as Virginia’s opioid overdose rates had fallen by 15 percent between 2017 and 2018, and deaths had seen a 12 percent drop. Early numbers show a similar drop between 2018 and 2019.
The rise in overdose numbers may not be caused by prescription opioids, though. Across the nation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has registered “significant changes in drug overdose deaths.”
While progress has been made to combat overdose deaths, death rates involving synthetic opioids (excluding methadone) increased by 10 percent from 2017 to 2018.
“Decreases in overdose deaths involving prescription opioids and heroin reflect the effectiveness of public health efforts to protect Americans and their families,” said CDC Director Robert Redfield. “While we continue to work to improve those outcomes, we are also addressing the increase in overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids. We must bring this epidemic to an end.”
That task has not been made easier by the COVID pandemic which presents unprecedented challenges for people with substance use disorders and treatment providers like The Farley Center. And while the treatment task has become more complicated for addiction programs and their patients, the need for treatment has actually increased.
The Farley team continues to work hard to help people with substance use disorder under very challenging conditions. People in active addiction ready to go into recovery should not delay seeking treatment for their disease.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance misuse but you are unsure what addiction treatment services are available during the COVID-19 pandemic, please contact The Farley Center at 800.582.6066 to find out about your options.